Langley council considers drafting ordinance for anti-racism committee

The city of Langley is considering making one of its newer citizen-led committees more permanent.

The city of Langley is considering making one of its newer citizen-led committees more permanent.

Last year, the city council established an ad-hoc committee known as Dismantling Systemic Racism, or the DSR. The multi-racial, intersectional, anti-racist advisory group was created for the purpose of listening to the voices of community members impacted by policies and practices contributing to systemic racism, injustice, abuse, bias, inequity and compromised safety in Langley.

Langley council members Christy Korrow and Craig Cyr have served as liaisons on the committee, which is composed of South Whidbey residents of different backgrounds.

At a city council meeting Sept. 7, Cyr said members of the advisory group are recommending that the council establish the DSR by ordinance as a standing citizen board. Korrow said she wanted to see that the rest of the council supported an ordinance before she and Cyr did all the work of drafting one.

The others, however, were not in complete agreement.

Councilmember Dominique Emerson expressed concerns about the city’s existing number of citizen commissions and council representation, pointing out that the terms of three city council members will be ending soon.

Emerson, Korrow and Peter Morton have all opted not to seek re-election for their seats on the council this year.

“We’ll have lots of holes to fill, such as PWAC,” Emerson said, referring to the city’s Public Works Advisory Commission.

Cyr said he was aware of the issue and added that there are some committees that do not require a council liaison at all, such as Parks and Open Spaces.

Councilmember Thomas Gill questioned how much the DSR had accomplished within the last year. He said things that members of the public have brought up have not been handled by the committee, as far as he could see.

“I’m really concerned that we’re not going to do that, we’re going to do a bunch of things that don’t seem to make any appreciable difference, they just make people feel good,” he said.

Cyr countered that the DSR has helped to modify the city’s comprehensive plan and implement goals. He added that members of the committee have been going through personnel policies and have uncovered some things that are “extraordinarily outdated.” In addition, the county has invited DSR members to help with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Emerson said she concurred with Gill, adding that she was not impressed with the anti-racism staff training that the DSR provided.

“To me, this belongs more at the county level than at the city level,” she said. “I think the real work is at the county level.”

Morton said he would like to see a draft of the permanent committee ordinance and be able to have the privilege to “mark it up” with edits. He encouraged Korrow and Cyr to move ahead with creating the draft for the DSR’s permanent status.

Cyr said they will be presenting the draft at a future council meeting.

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